This commentary was first posted on New America Media.
How will Japan’s recent policy shift to offensive weaponry affect the U.S.-China ongoing dialogue between their respective defense chiefs?
General Chang Wanquan’s visit to the US this week as minister of defense is the latest of a continuing series of exchanges between China and the U.S, aimed at building trust between the military of both countries. Both sides agree that sharing information and discussing issues of common interests will enhance understanding and cooperation.
Whether meeting on common grounds will lead to recognition and mutual respect for the differences still outstanding between the two counties remains unanswered. Moreover, aside from existing differences that have bedeviled the bilateral relations, a new development has come to the fore: Japan’s pronounced shift to militarism.
The newly elected Abe government, elected on a platform of nationalism, is threatening to revise Japan’s constitution and disavow the peace covenants that were inserted to remind the people of Japan of the atrocities committed by their military--hideous acts of inhumanity that repelled the people in Asia. At the end of WWII, Japan was to never again mount offensive military capabilities but limit to pacifist self-defense forces.
The Abe government picked August 6, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, to launch a new super destroyer, named “Izumo,” big enough to launch helicopters and, with a bit of modification, fighter planes. The deck was festooned with the war flag of the old imperial army and the helicopters were emblazoned with the number 731.
Much of the symbolism associated with this launch went over the heads of the American public but certainly had the desired affect by arousing the anger of the people in China.
Japan’s official position has always been to point to Hiroshima as a reminder to the Japanese people that they were victims of WWII and American aggression, contrary to the idea that Japan was the aggressor.
Unit 731 was the secret research station located in the outskirts of Harbin where live human beings were subject to injections of toxins such as bubonic plague and anthrax and then cut open while alive to monitor progress of the ravages of the diseases—all without administration of anesthesia. Use of anesthesia, the reasoning went, may distort the test results of the trial weapons of germ warfare.
The victims of these biological experiments were not just Chinese civilians but included American POWs captured from the Bataan death march in Philippines. In the waning days of the War, most of the biological testing camp was destroyed.
General Shiro Ishii, the commandant of Unit 731, secretly negotiated with the American occupation force to turn over the research data in exchange for escaping from prosecution for himself and his research team. The Americans accepted Ishii’s terms and thus the activities of Unit 731 were never exposed to the limelight of a military tribunal and prosecution.
Thanks to Ishii and America complicity, members of his research team died of natural causes and never felt the sting of having to explain their heinous activity and the disgrace of public condemnation; some even walked tall in their post-war careers as respected members of society.
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended the war was just a bit too soon for Ishii. He was experimenting with the use of high altitude balloons to drop germ-laden bombs on the west coast of the U.S. Had he succeeded, America would surely not be so ready to forget Japan’s role in the war.
President Obama likes to tell despots that they are standing on the wrong side of history. In siding with Japan on any disputes Japan has with China, the U.S. is clearly on the wrong side and perhaps the blind side of history.
Hard to know if General Chang would have the opportunity to discuss with the Secretary Hagel of the significantly different attitude about Japan between China and the U.S. America has been quick to forgive Japan but China could not because Japan has yet to own up to their role in the war and make a heart felt apology and amends.